2018 NFL Week 3 Picks & Previews: Lots of Upsets as Contenders Rise

Welcome to my NFL Week 3 picks and previews.  I had a great week last week, finishing 12-3-1,  That brings my overall record to 21-9-2, better than any ESPN or CBS Sports expert besides Pete Prisco.  If I told you who the current 2-0 teams were before the season started, most of you would be shocked. The Dolphins? The Bengals? The Chiefs?

According to NFL Network, 2-0 teams make the playoffs 64% of the time.  But those odds go up to 75% if they become 3-0. So as NFL Network put it, this is a big week for those 2-0 teams.  Which of them are contenders, and which are pretenders? We will likely get a glimpse at that this week.

Lock of the Week

I know a lot of you think the Vikings are going to blow out the Bills, but it’s hard to imagine any team blowing out another without their star running back (still see the Vikes winning though).  With RB Dalvin Cook out, this becomes the biggest lock in my eyes. The Chiefs defense isn’t anything special, but I think they’ll keep QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s young receivers covered, leaving Garoppolo scrambling to find an open man.  Meanwhile, I cannot see the 49ers defense stopping QB Patrick Mahomes II. Expect Mahomes to toss a few more touchdowns and lead the Chiefs offense to dominate. RB Kareem Hunt will also have a strong game.

Upset of the Week

The Ravens were topped easily by the Bengals last week, and I see Cincy as a pretender who’s just riding an easy schedule to a winning record.  So, I don’t think the Ravens will be able to do much against this shut down Denver D, even at home.  I think the No-Fly Zone will be back up to full speed this week against QB Joe Flacco’s mediocre receivers.  I think the Ravens defense will have a strong game as well, leaving QB Case Keenum with less open men and less TD opportunities than he had in the last two games. But I do think Keenum and the Broncos will find a way to pull off the upset in Baltimore.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter on Thursday Night; Actual Score: 21-17 Browns)

The Browns might be without WR Josh Gordon, but they’ll find creative ways to score as their running backs lead the way. Expect the Jets defense to shut down Cleveland’s receivers for a good portion of the game.  But look for TE David Njoku to shine.  The Jets will make it close with strong offense of their own, but I don’t see it being enough as the Browns young offense finds a way.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

I’m a little worried about the Raider defense in this game, but I think QB Derek Carr will find open men, taking advantage of Miami’s weakness, their defense.  Look for QB Ryan Tannehill to have a strong game as well, but I don’t think the Dolphins are as good as advertised, and Carr will lead the Raiders to pull the upset.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

This Bills offense has not been able to get into a groove yet this year, and you can expect more of the same in Minnesota.  QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers will lead the way for Minnesota with the help of dominant defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Bengals defense will play a factor here, minimalizing what the Panthers offense can put up.  Carolina’s run game will struggle, and Cam Newton will be held to one TD as his receivers are well covered.  Meanwhile, I expect QB Andy Dalton and his receivers to have a pretty strong game.  But I see the Panthers defense completely shutting down the Joe Mixon-less Bengals run game and leading Carolina to victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect a stellar performance by Houston’s receivers against a banged up New York secondary and a dominant game by QB Deshaun Watson against a below average Giants defensive front.  I think the Giants will take the early lead, but the Texans dominant D will shut them down as Houston comes back.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for the Jaguars offense to be limited by a somewhat strong Titans D.  But this is Sacksonville, and QB Blaine Gabbert will be their next victim.  Expect the Jags D to dominate, holding Tennessee under 10.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Carson Wentz is back, but with RB Jay Ajayi and WRs Alshon Jeffery and Mike Wallace hurt, he doesn’t have much left around him.  So I don’t expect an all out domination. Expect the Colts to have a decent offensive day against the young Eagles secondary.  But I think Wentz and the Eagles will be able to squeeze by.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for the Redskins to have a strong offensive day, but I think strong red zone D by Green Bay will hold them up here.  Meanwhile, expect the Packers to hold the lead for most of the game as Aaron Rodgers tosses multiple TDs and looks a little more mobile in recovery from his knee injury.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST (OT)

Look for the Saints to grab an early lead here, led by RB Alvin Kamara and WR Michael Thomas.  But I think they’ll slow down, and strong WR play by Atlanta plus sloppy defense by New Orleans will lead to a Falcons comeback in overtime.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

Look for a spot-on game by the Rams entire defense, as they will shut down a high-powered Chargers offense.  I don’t think QB Jared Goff and his offense will look all that great, but they’ll come out victorious thanks to the defense stepping it up.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

I think Seattle’s offense will look alright here, but they’ll begin to miss WR Doug Baldwin.  Meanwhile, their declining defense will blow it as QB Dak Prescott and his receivers dominate.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST (OT)

The hollers for QB Josh Rosen to take over will just get louder this week as QB Sam Bradford blows it in overtime.  I honestly think the Cardinals would be so much better off right now if they had started Rosen.  Chicago’s defense, receivers, and backs will all show promise as Arizona looks better, but can’t pull off a victory at home.  
Sunday, 8:30 PM EST

Check back for a video preview closer to game time!

Expect an offensive shootout here, as both QB Tom Brady and QB Matthew Stafford toss multiple TD.  Meanwhile, the Lions defense will struggle regressively as the Pats score 5 TD. However, New England’s defense will be overwhelmed by Detroit’s offensive depth, and they won’t look much better despite a New England victory.
Monday, 8:30 PM EST

Look for the Bucs to have another strong offensive game and get creative in scoring situations as Pittsburgh’s D tries to limit them.  But I think the Steelers will fall short again without RB Le’Veon Bell, making WR Antonio Brown more fed up with this team.

That’s all for my picks for this week.  Comment with your thoughts, and stay tuned for more posts soon.

2018 NFL Week 2 Picks & Previews: QB Carousel Leads to Surprise Winners

Welcome to my Week 2 NFL picks.  Last week, I went 9-6-1, putting me ahead of 4 of ESPN’s 10 pick’em experts, and 2 of CBS Sports’ 8 pick’em experts.  This off-season, many quarterbacks changed teams as usual. Patrick Mahomes II was named Kansas City’s starter as Alex Smith was traded from the Chiefs to the Redskins.  Kirk Cousins, formerly of the Redskins signed with the Vikings. Case Keenum, Minnesota’s 2017 starter, is now starting in Denver.

I thought that Keenum and Cousins would thrive with their new teams, while Smith struggles without his offensive weapons and the Chiefs offense struggles without Smith.  But all four of those teams succeeded thanks to strong offense in Week 1. Mahomes just made the Chiefs offense look better, and the Redskins just might be better off with Smith than they were with Cousins. Does this have to do with the QB carousel, or is it what surrounds these quarterbacks that leads them to thrive?  Either way, the Chiefs and Redskins could be two surprise teams to watch out for, and the Vikes and Broncos look to stay elite. Will all four win again this week? Read my picks below to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week (MNF)

I thought the Seahawks offense would struggle last week, but things actually turned out alright for them despite a loss.  However, they will be without WR Doug Baldwin this week, so don’t be surprised by a dud out of Seattle’s offense. Plus, the Bears defense looks much better with everyone healthy and Khalil Mack on board.  Expect a strong week by QB Mitch Trubisky as well as the Bears running backs. However, it will be Mack and the Bears D that holds Seattle under 10 and leads the Bears to victory.

Upset of the Week

I learned one major lesson about the Chiefs in Week 1: QB Patrick Mahomes is not a bust, and he is capable of becoming an elite NFL starter this year.  Expect him to lead a talented Chiefs offense to victory despite some iffy defense by Kansas City.  The Steelers offense will begin to miss RB Le’Veon Bell, and their mediocre defense won’t be enough to stop the Chiefs.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted on Twitter on Thursday Night; Actual Score: 34-23 Bengals)

I don’t expect more than 30 total points in this game.  Both these defenses are arguably Top 10 in the league.  They should be successful in pressuring each other’s quarterbacks and shutting down each other’s running backs.  But the Bengals will edge out the victory at home thanks to a strong game by WR A.J. Green.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Jets strong defense and a good day by rookie QB Sam Darnold led the Jets to victory in Detroit.  Expect more of the same in Miami, and watch for an especially strong game out of New York’s secondary.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

I think QB Josh Allen will lead the Bills to a closer game than they had last week.  But I see the Chargers having a better offensive day and winning this one.  They will rebound from their struggles against Kansas City last week.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Saints QB Drew Brees to excel against a young Browns defense.  But you should expect the Browns to make this a close offensive shootout, even without WR Josh Gordon.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

With TE Delanie Walker on IR, I don’t expect a very strong game by the Titans offense, especially against the elite Houston D.  I think the Texans will be able to squeeze by despite a banged up wide receiver group.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

I do expect QB Andrew Luck to look good in his second game back.  However, expect the Colts weak defense to give up 30+ points again in a loss.  They will especially struggle at containing the Redskins receivers.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

This is a battle of two capable backup QBs and two strong defensive fronts.  With QB Carson Wentz and WR Alshon Jeffery hurt, I don’t think the Philly offense will be able to handle this strong Bucs D.  The strong defense will lead Tampa to victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST (OT)

Expect the Packers to pull off another last minute comeback here, this one extending into overtime.  It just shows how clutch QB Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense are.  I do expect strong games by the Vikings receivers that keep this close and give the Vikings an early lead.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for a strong game out of WR Julio Jones and the rest of Atlanta’s receivers against a young Carolina secondary.  This will help lead Atlanta to victory as the Panthers receivers struggle.  However, Carolina’s strong run game will lead the way and make this close.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST (OT)

Expect both teams to rebound from offensive struggles last week.  The Lions have a veteran QB and strong receiver group that may very well be the highlight of this team.  But I think QB Jimmy Garoppolo and the young 49ers offense will look dominant against a below average Lions D.  The 49ers will edge out an overtime victory at home.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

I don’t expect the Rams to have a field day here.  The Cardinals defense is much improved from last season.  But the Rams will edge out a victory as their own defense holds QB Sam Bradford and his receivers below 20 points.  
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Stay tuned for a game preview before the game begins!

 

Expect a lot of passing, as this will be a close game and running backs on both sides are injured.  I think the Jaguars will struggle to find ways to score without RB Leonard Fournette, but the Jags defense will lead them to victory.  As a fan, I really want to see TE Rob Gronkowski prove CB Jalen Ramsey wrong and lead the Pats to victory, and I think he will prove Ramsey wrong.  But as an unbiased reporter, I see this as one of the toughest games on New England’s schedule, and I can’t see them winning with WR Julian Edelman suspended and multiple RBs banged up.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Expect the Raiders to struggle at scoring against the stellar Broncos defense.  Strong offensive line play by Oakland will be key to protect QB Derek Carr, and I expect to see that at the very least.  But I think Denver’s offense will repeat what they had going last week to pull off another home victory.
Sunday, 8:30 PM EST

I think this is going to be an offensive shootout.  Cowboys QB Dak Prescott will find creative ways to score at home and RB Ezekiel Elliott will have a strong game. Meanwhile, I think the Giants will take an early lead against a young Cowboys D. But I see Dallas pulling away with a victory in the end thanks to a choke by the New York defense.

That’s all for this week’s NFL picks and previews.  Stay tuned for more NFL articles coming soon.

Red Sox @ Yankees May 8-10 2018: Series Preview

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The Red Sox have had it easy in terms of their schedule over the last week and a half.  They played the Rays, Rangers, and Royals, taking 7 of 10 during that stretch.  But now they face the Yankees, who have won 15 of 16 against some of the AL’s best.  They swept the Twins, Indians, and Angels, and nearly swept Houston.  They have been boosted by the emergence of Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, and are doing fine without 1B Greg Bird.  How will they fare against Boston, the only AL team that still has a better record than the Yankees?  They will fight for not just the AL East crown, but the American League crown in this series.  They are arguably the two best teams in baseball right now, which makes this intense rivalry even better.

Previous 2018 Results

The Red Sox have already played the Yankees once this season at Fenway Park.  The Yankees had even more injury problems and did not have Gleyber in the majors back in mid-April when this series occurred.  Despite losing Xander Bogaerts to the DL shortly before the series, the Red Sox, who had started 8-1 due to spotless pitching and an easy schedule, took advantage.  They took 2 of 3 in the series.  The Red Sox lineup had dominated in Game 1 to bring the Sox a 14-1 win.  David Price had a rough Game 2 and left early with an injury.  But the Red Sox attempted to come back, and after Tyler Austin spiked the infielder sliding into 2nd, Joe Kelly got revenge when he hit Austin.  It ended in a bench-clearing brawl that got Kelly and Austin suspended.  Porcello continued a strong start in the 3rd game as the Red Sox won, 6-3.  I did a recap of that game when the Sox and Bruins won important games on the same night.

Big Night For Boston: Sox, Bruins Win On Big Stage

 

How They Line-Up Now

Both teams have powerful, home-run hitting lineups.  But both of these lineups have a weak spot.  The Yankees have seen several hitters who are usually pretty good slump.  Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez all have a batting average under .230.  Sanchez is batting .198.  It is balanced out by strong seasons from Didi Gregorius and Aaron Judge, as well as early success out of Andujar and Torres.  I was never too high on Gregorius, but he has really proven himself this year.   The Red Sox do not have reliable hitters at the end of the lineup.  Both regular catchers and JBJ are batting under .200, and Eduardo Nunez has also struggled.  But J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, and Xander Bogaerts have all thrived and led this team.

The Red Sox have the starting pitching advantage, but not all of the pitching match-ups in this series are favorable for the Red Sox.  The Red Sox don’t have too much of a bullpen to rely on, either.  Craig Kimbrel has been flawless, but the rest of the bullpen has not always stepped it up when the starter struggles.  The Red Sox have to rely on either an offensive explosion or a spotless, long-lasting starter to win quality games.

Pitching Match-Ups

Game 1 (5/8): BOS: Image result for drew pomeranzDrew Pomeranz (1-1, 6.14 ERA)

vs. NYY: Image result for luis severinoLuis Severino (5-1, 2.11)

By no means is Severino going to be easy to face but I could see Pomeranz stepping it up on the big stage here.  Once Severino leaves, it will be the offense’s turn to make an impact.

Note: Price has been scratched from his Wednesday start due to hand numbness.  I’m beginning to agree with that 98.5 caller who talked about the stress disorder with David Price.  Can he handle the pressure of a Red Sox-Yankees game?

Game 2 (5/9): BOS: Image result for rick porcello Rick Porcello (5-0, 2.14 ERA)

NYY: Image result for MASAHIRO TANAKAMasahiro Tanaka (4-2, 4.39 ERA)

Tanaka has been pretty good this year, but Porcello has been flawless this year.  Moving him a day up brings this pitching match-up into our favor.

Game 3 (5/10): BOS: Image result for Eduardo Rodriguez Eduardo Rodriguez (3-0, 5.29 ERA)

NYY: Image result for C.C. Sabathia C.C. Sabathia (2-0, 1.39 ERA)

I like Eduardo Rodriguez.  He has very high potential, but C.C. Sabathia has been great when healthy, and I’m wondering how E-Rod will perform under the pressure of Yankee Stadium.

My Prediction: Red Sox Take 2 of 3

 

 

Red Sox Report: Sox Slowing Down, But It’s Understandable

When the Red Sox began the season 17-2, I knew they would not be able to finish the season going at that pace.  So it is understandable that the Red Sox have gone 8-7 in their last 15 games.  It does not mean the Red Sox are a fluke.  They have still shown signs in the last 14 games that they are capable contenders.  But they cannot win every game, and 8 to 10-game winning streaks interrupted by just a loss or two is not realistic for any team to maintain.

Image result for mookie betts 3 hr games

But Mookie Betts is still on fire, and Hanley Ramirez has still put up much better numbers to start 2018.  J.D. Martinez has also begun to heat up.  Betts has gotten to the point in his hot streak where he’s breaking HR records.  We will look at Betts’ records, the cooling off of the Red Sox, and much more in this edition of the Red Sox Report.

Red Sox Beginning to Cool Off, But It’s Not a Major Concern

As I said above, although the Sox have cooled off, the Red Sox have still shown qualities of an elite playoff contender.  I still think they have the potential to make a deep run this year.  What concerns me a little bit is who they have been losing to.  They lost a series to the Rays to start their most recent homestand.  Tampa barely has a starting rotation.  But even a blind squirrel eventually finds an acorn.  They also struggled and got no-hit against the Athletics.  The A’s are not terrible, they have a powerful young lineup and an improving rotation.  But after a 17-2 start, I did not expect A’s SP Sean Manaea to no-hit the Red Sox.  It shows that our lineup is very streaky, feast or famine.

Struggles against the mediocre teams is a problem, but the Red Sox have been pretty good against tough opponents like the Angels and Blue Jays.  What the Red Sox need right now is to be competitive against playoff contenders.  If they continue to prove that they are capable of that, I will be much more confident in their World Series chances.  But if they cannot show up against subpar teams, how will they be able to continue to thrive against contenders?

Sox Lineup Has Been Streaky But Has High Ceiling

Image result for jd martinez redsox

The Red Sox lineup has really struggled at times. They have scored 3 or fewer runs in 4 of their 9 losses so far. But when the lineup is on a good streak, it can carry the team. At its best, this lineup could probably carry the Red Sox all the way to the World Series.  But several guys have failed to come through in recent weeks. Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, and Jackie Bradley Jr. are all batting under .200, and Eduardo Nunez hasn’t looked like the same guy that boosted the Red Sox lineup on the brink of contention.  Everyone in this lineup has struggled at some point this season.

But when on a hot streak, this lineup can take the league by storm.  There were several hot hitters that led us to our amazing start, and a few of our hitters are still on fire.  J.D. Martinez is 21 for his last 47 (.447) and has hit 3 dingers in that span.  Mookie Betts has been on fire all season.  Read more about Betts’ hot streak in the next section.

Mookie Betts Still On Fire, Now He’s Making History

Image result for mookie betts 2018

Betts is batting .352 (5th in the league) with 13 home runs (leading the league) and a 1.257 OPS (leading the league) on the season.  In addition, he’s 12 for his last 23 (.522).   He has hit 11 of the homers in his last 15 games and has had two 3 HR games this season (one soon after Marathon Monday in Anaheim, and another at Fenway this week against the Royals).  It’s only the start of May, and he had these 3 HR games within two weeks of each other.  He also had a pair of 3 HR games back in 2016.  He and Johnny Mize are the only players to ever have a pair of 3 HR games two times in their career.

Betts also passed Ted Williams for the most 3-HR games in team history.  Betts is only 25.  He has plenty of time in his career for more multi-HR games.  Could he become the first person to have two 3-HR games in three different seasons?  Could he eventually break the MLB 3 HR game record?  It is currently held by Mize and Sammy Sosa (6).  Betts is in the Top 10 with 4.  Betts is tied for 2nd with Manny Machado for multi-HR games since 2016 (11).  Betts and Machado are behind just Giancarlo Stanton (14).  Betts is more than just our leadoff hitter.  He is one of baseball’s biggest stars.  But there is an argument for why he should remain our leadoff hitter, and I look at that in my next Baseball Bits.

Injury Report: Thornburg Begins Rehab, Several Activated Over Last Two Weeks

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The Red Sox have continued to be hit by the injury bug.  Brock Holt went on the DL in late April with a hamstring strain.  Mookie Betts was also hurt for a few days in late April with hamstring issues but has since returned and continued to dominate.  He also left today’s game with a wrist injury.  But several of our previously injured players have returned over the last couple of weeks.  Xander Bogaerts was activated last weekend, and he lost his hot streak on the DL, but he went 3-4 in his first game back and has continued to hit well, batting .303 since his return.  Bobby Poyner has also returned from his injury but did not return to the big league roster until May 4th after a stint with the Paw Sox.

Steven Wright has returned from the DL too, but he is currently serving a 15-game domestic violence suspension.  Joe Kelly recently returned from his 6-game suspension after the Sox-Yankees brawl in April.  Eduardo Rodriguez was also out for a few days on a family medical leave but was activated on the 5th to start against the Rangers.  He did not miss a start during his absence.  Tyler Thornburg, Austin Maddox, Marco Hernandez, Brock Holt, and Dustin Pedroia are the players that remain on the DL.  Thornburg has begun his rehab assignment, and Pedroia has been rehabbing at extended spring training.  Pedey is targeting a May 25 big league return.  Brock Holt is expected to return next week.

Sox Have Caught a Break vs. Royals, Rangers, But Round 2 With Flaming Hot Yankees Ahead

Image result for red sox-royals 2018

After a tough road trip, the Red Sox have enjoyed a relatively easy schedule over the last week and a half.  They have played the Rays, Royals, and Rangers.  Despite having a tough time against the Rays (who have won 11 of their last 14 on a hot streak), the Red Sox have caught a break against the Royals and Rangers, who they won 5 of 7 against.  But after that, the Red Sox could have another difficult stretch ahead, starting with a 3 game series at Yankee Stadium.  The Yankees have won 14 of their last 15, and this was against playoff contenders.

The Yanks have swept the Twins, Indians, and Angels, and took 3 of 4 in Houston.  If the Yankees continue to thrive against Boston, they will be proven as serious contenders.  But Boston had an impressive 17-2 stretch of their own.  Although it may not have been against as difficult opponents, the Sox did take 2 out of 3 when they hosted the Yankees.  However, the Yankees were without C.C. Sabathia and Aaron Hicks in that series.  They have also called up Gleyber Torres, who has done very well since that series.  They have lost Jordan Montgomery and a couple relievers to the DL since the series though.

That’s all for this edition of the Red Sox Report.  Stay tuned for more Red Sox posts coming soon.

My 2018 NHL Playoff Bracket

I have finished my predictions for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Here is my bracket:

The Bruins have a very tough road ahead. They will face a tough Maple Leafs team in the first round, and will likely see the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, another tough team. Their defensive struggles will definitely hurt them in the later rounds, especially if they face the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, or the dominant Nashville Predators. I do think the Bruins will win in the end though. If they can stay healthy from here, they have a lot of talent that is capable of keeping the offense going. The defense should be alright without Brandon Carlo, especially if Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, and Torey Krug do well in the playoffs.

Here are some other notes about my bracket:

  • I have picked most of the higher seeds in the East besides the Bruins and Penguins. But in the West, I have picked several upsets. The Golden Knights were the league’s biggest surprise this year, but they are inexperienced in the playoffs, and regressed down the stretch after appearing to be the league’s best team in the early months. I think the Kings will give them a rude awakening and Vegas will struggle under pressure.
  • The Sharks will also go deep. I think they have a better roster than the Ducks and will outmatch them head to head. They will top the Kings, a lower seed after LA shocks the Golden Knights and advance to the Western Conference Finals. The Kings will win in Round 1, but do not expect them to go any further. But the Predators are too good for them. I also picked the Wilds over the Jets for similar reasons.
  • I think the Bruins would’ve been much easier off against the Devils. The Lightning will dominate in New Jersey. I think the Florida Panthers, who just missed the playoffs and a lot of other teams would have given their opponents a bigger challenge than the Devils.
  • In my opinion, although the higher seeds in the East will win in the 1st Round, lower seeds like the Maple Leafs, Flyers and Blue Jackets will give their opponents a good challenge. As I said earlier, I think the Devils will be the easiest first round opponent.

That’s all for my NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions. Stay tuned for more coverage.

Ranking The Teams 12-7: My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018

Welcome to Part 4 of my MLB pre-season power rankings.  Although the season has started, I am still finishing this series.  I will also have my first Red Sox Report article of 2018 coming soon, as well as coverage on NFL free agency and the upcoming Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins games.

Last time, I covered the teams that are in the middle of the pack, and haven’t really decided what direction they want to head in.  I looked at how they did this off-season, how they’ll do this season, and where they are headed.  I also discussed best and worst case scenarios for each team and projected their records and division placements. Today I will do the same for the contending teams, but rather than talking about where they are headed (which is somewhat obvious to me), today I will be discussing what is holding them back from dominance.  Read below to find out who these six teams are and what to expect for them this year.

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

Friday, March 23: Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: Who’s In The Basement?

Sunday, March 25: Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: Teams That Will Struggle

Monday, March 26: Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Monday, April 2: Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018?

Wednesday, April 4: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

*My pre-season Baseball Bits are also up.

12. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins

Off-Season Review

Image result for jake odorizzi twins

The Twins quietly put together a strong off-season after acquiring Jake Odorizzi and signing Logan Morrison at the last minute.  They also signed Lance Lynn to add to a rotation that will be without Ervin Santana and new signing Michael Pineda to start the season.  With Odorizzi and Lynn on board, it will be a respectable rotation throughout the season and could take the League by storm when Pineda and Santana return.  Morrison is here to upgrade at the DH position over Kennys Vargas, who only got his job back because Byung-Ho Park was a bust in 2016. They also added Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed in the bullpen to replace Glen Perkins, who retired.

The Case for the Twins

Image result for miguel sano
The Twins will be able to contend.  Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are primed for breakouts, Brian Dozier has emerged as a veteran leader, and Logan Morrison, Jake Odorizzi, and Lance Lynn are nice additions that put this roster in position to continue to contend after surprisingly cracking the playoff field in 2017.  But the competition for the AL Wild Card will be tougher this year after the moves that have been made by the Angels and Red Sox to make their own Wild Card cases.  The Red Sox could even challenge the Yankees in the AL East, but the Yankees are likely to make the playoffs either way.

What’s Holding Them Back

A month ago I would have said rotation depth problems, but now I think they have a bigger problem at shortstop.  With Jorge Polanco suspended for 80 games, they will have to start Eduardo Escobar, who has struggled in recent years and is not 100% proven as a starter.  I honestly don’t think they were ever doing great at shortstop.  I thought the combination of Polanco and Escobar was okay, but I’m not even so high on Polanco anyways.  They also have problems in the bullpen.  Signing Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed help, but they lack depth, and will Rodney and Reed succeed with their new team?
Best Case Scenario: Buxton and Sano breakthrough, Minnesota’s late off-season moves pay off, and the Twins quietly sneak to the top of the AL Central.
Worst Case Scenario: The injury-riddled rotation lacks depth and gets tired, the new bullpen additions do not help all that much, and the lineup fails to have much more than another decent year as the Twins finish in a distant second to the Indians, just above .500.

Projected Finish: 87-75, 2nd in AL Central

11. milwaukee-brewers Milwaukee Brewers

Off-Season Review

Image result for lorenzo cain brewers

After coming inches away from a playoff berth in 2017, the Brewers made some upgrades in hopes of a playoff run.  They did not add the ace they desperately needed, but they did sign Yovani Gallardo, Wade Miley, and Jhoulys Chacin (Gallardo has since been released).  Chase Anderson and Zach Davies could also step it up in the rotation until the injured Jimmy Nelson returns.  They could re-assess at the trade deadline if needed.  They did add to the bullpen by signing Boone Logan and Matt Albers though.  They could still use a closer.  They also added to their outfield by signing Lorenzo Cain and trading for Christian Yelich.  As a result, Ryan Braun will be able to help out at first in addition to playing outfield.  Eric Thames is no longer an everyday starter, but Braun is, and he will see a lot of starts at first and in the outfield.  They could’ve also added Neil Walker back, but should be fine at second between Jonathan Villar and Eric Sogard as Walker joins the Yankees.

The Case for the Brewers

Milwaukee could make a serious run in 2018, or they could bust.  It’s hard to predict, but I have them somewhere in the middle.  Cain and Yelich will prove to be nice additions among others.  But if the Brewers were really hoping to contend, they would’ve considered adding an ace, a closer, and a second baseman.  They have various holes in the roster that will hold them back.  This is a good team with a nice roster that includes a lot of great pieces.  But they could still use some fine-tuning before they make a run.

What’s Holding Them Back

Milwaukee has a nice rotation, but the rotation lacks a #1 starter.  Signing someone like Alex Cobb would have worked out, but instead, they stayed put.  The Brewers would be in a much better position right now if they were able to sign an ace.  The Cubs added Yu Darvish.  How did the Brewers respond?  By sitting tight and calling Chase Anderson their #1 starter.  Anderson may be a good #2, but that will not work out well.  Even Jimmy Nelson is not quite a viable #1 starter, and he’s out until at least May.
Best Case Scenario: The rotation is able to survive on its own, the lineup dominates, and the bullpen surprises the league after using their new additions to their advantage.  The Brewers make a nice playoff run after clinching a Wild Card spot.
Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is nothing more than mediocre without a known ace, the lineup thrives, but struggle to figure out what to do as Eric Thames struggles and Ryan Braun cannot adjust to the infield, and the Brewers disappoint, winning less than 85 games.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 3rd in NL Central

10. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies

Off-Season Review

The Rockies seemed pretty confident with what they have this off-season, as they did not add a first baseman or a starting pitcher.  They could have used a veteran mentor at either position.  They did bring back Carlos Gonzalez for depth though.  This off-season, CarGo’s market has been limited due to regressive struggles in 2017, but the Rockies brought him back anyway, hoping he would rebound.  In the meantime, Ian Desmond and prospect Ryan McMahon will both get time at first and the young rotation will have to survive without a veteran influence.

The Case for the Rockies

Image result for charlie blackmon

The Rockies are coming off a strong 2017 season, where they finally cracked the playoff field.  But they haven’t secured themselves as regular contenders yet.  To contend again in 2018, the young rotation will have to at least have a decent year, and they need Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado to pick up from where they left off last season.  DJ LeMahieu, CarGo, and Trevor Story have also helped provide their lineup with the power they need to contend. Will the Rockies make the playoffs?  Tell me what you think in the comments.

What’s Holding Them Back

The Rockies play in a severely hitter-friendly ballpark, so it’s understandable if the Rockies lineup is significantly better than the rotation.  But the Rockies will have to perform well on the road to become a true playoff contender, and in most ballparks, that requires a better rotation than what Colorado has.  I think this team can make the playoffs, but they could be eliminated early once again if the pitching struggles, especially in the 1 game wild-card round.
Best Case Scenario: The young Rockies rotation exceeds their expectations, the powerful lineup dominates, and the Rockies win the NL West and get ready to make a run in the playoffs.
Worst Case Scenario: Charlie Blackmon cannot repeat his success, CarGo, and other hitters begin to decline, and the Rockies struggle, finishing 4th in the NL West just below .500.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 2nd in NL West

9. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals

Off-Season Review

Image result for marcell ozuna cardinals

Much like the Blue Jays are doing now, the Cardinals have quietly rebuilt without regressing majorly.  They are already hoping to contend after beginning to rebuild in the 2015-16 off-season.  This off-season, they acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins, and were hoping to land Mike Moustakas, but lost out on him. Ozuna is an upgrade over Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk, both of whom the Cardinals traded away this off-season.  However, they have been fine in their first few games as Jose Martinez continues to dominate.  Matt Carpenter can now help at third base with Martinez playing first on some days.  They also upgraded their pitching staff, signing Miles Mikolas in his return to the MLB.  They also added Luke Gregerson and Greg Holland in a remodeling of the bullpen.

The Case for the Cardinals

Image result for tommy pham

The Cardinals are ready to work towards a return to the playoffs.  With a roster that is flooded with young talent as well as veterans, who they will need to win now.  They were lucky with how fast their rebuild went.  Tommy Pham, Jose Martinez, and other top prospects broke through quickly.  The Cardinals went into rebuild mode because they had such a strong farm system, and those players will help lead this team along with veterans like Dexter Fowler, Marcell Ozuna, Matt Carpenter, and Michael Wacha who St. Louis either held on to from 2015 or has acquired since then.

What’s Holding Them Back

I like the Cardinals young rotation, but I feel that Jack Flaherty and Luke Weaver could have used more time to develop, and Alex Reyes will need it after his elbow injury.  Reyes has even considered switching to become a late-inning reliever.  If they had signed a veteran mentor like John Lackey, Ubaldo Jimenez, or Scott Kazmir, who are all still available, to a 1-year deal, then they might be in better shape.  Signing Moose also would have helped.

Best Case Scenario: The young Cardinals leaders dominate, including the rotation, and help lead the Cardinals to an NL Central win and a playoff run.

Worst Case Scenario: The young rotation cannot handle the pressure, Tommy Pham cannot repeat his 2017 success as well as some of their other recent breakout players, and the Cardinals finish around .500, third or fourth in the division.

Projected Finish: 90-72, 2nd in NL Central

8. la-angels-of-anaheim Los Angeles Angels

Off-Season Review

Image result for shohei ohtani angels

The Angels were one of the most active teams in the league this off-season, especially early on, when very few moves were made across the league.  They brought back Justin Upton and acquired another player from the Tigers in 2B Ian Kinsler (Upton was acquired from Detroit in a trade last season).  They added Zack Cozart too.  The combination of those three will really boost their lineup.  They had enough depth and power in the lineup for 2018 that they were able to trade away mediocre 1B C.J. Cron.  Their biggest move came early on when they signed Japanese two-way player Shohei Ohtani, who has already done great at the big league level as a hitter and a pitcher.

The Case for the Angels

The Angels are ready to return to contention after struggling over the last two years.  Their struggles were caused by the injury-riddled rotation and the lack of a strong lineup.  But now, all has changed after the Halos added some rotation depth and boosted their lineup.  The Angels will fight for a Wild Card spot, but they may be a division contender if they did not play in the same division as the defending World Series champions, the Houston Astros.

What’s Holding Them Back

Image result for mike trout

The Angels do not have much on their own roster that can hold them back.  But there are two problems: a) they do not have the same kind of talent that the dominant teams of the league have and b) they compete in a tough division that is led by the defending World Series champion, who has only gotten better this off-season.  They have Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, but what other All Star players do they have?  They will face a tough schedule and that will hold them back as they struggle to compete with the best.

Best Case Scenario: Shohei Ohtani and the Angels rotation avoid injuries and dominate, the lineup returns to dominance after adding Upton, Kinsler, and Cozart, and the Angels compete for the AL West title and make a playoff run.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation’s injury problems continue, Ohtani cannot handle the pressure of MLB level pitching, and the lineup ends up underperforming, leading the Angels to another mediocre season.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 2nd in AL West

7. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians

Off-Season Review

Image result for yonder alonso indians

The Indians were able to replace 1B Carlos Santana (lost in free agency) by upgrading with a signing of Yonder Alonso, who had a very strong season with the A’s and Mariners in 2017.  They also brought back familiar faces in Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis.  The Indians have been able to maintain a strong roster without spending too much money, as they did not lose too many people to free agency.  All they needed was one more outfielder, a little bullpen help, and a replacement for Santana.

The Case for the Indians

Cleveland is one of what is known as the MLB’s Super Seven, a group of teams that are bound for long term success after dominance in 2017.  However, I see Cleveland as the bottom team of these seven, as although they have maintained a strong roster, they have not made many upgrades after losing to the Yankees in the 2017 ALDS and losing to the Cubs in the 2016 World Series.  They will still be significant contenders and clear division favorites (despite a weak division), but do not expect a run beyond the ALDS this year.  I see an AL pennant as their ceiling.

What’s Holding Them Back

Image result for michael brantley

Like I said, they could use a couple more upgrades over what they have.  Michael Brantley is getting older and is very injury prone, Jason Kipnis is declining, and the bullpen could use a little more depth to aid a strong rotation.  There are other teams that I see as much more likely World Series winners than them.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup keeps up the good work, the rotation looks dominant as it is led by two star pitchers in Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, and the Indians make a deep playoff run.

Worst Case Scenario: Injuries and old age hold back the Indians as they lose the division to the Minnesota Twins and just barely snag a Wild Card.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in AL Central

That’s all for this article.  Stay tuned for more Red Sox and other baseball articles coming soon.

Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look

The match-up is set.  The Patriots and Eagles will face off in Super Bowl LII.  Today I will address how they got there, and give you your first look at the match-up.

But first here is the official schedule for my Super Bowl LII Preview. This will be part of each Preview article and will include links to the articles that are finished.

Super Bowl LII – Patriots vs. Eagles: Boston Sports Mania Preview

Monday, Jan. 29: Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look

Tuesday, Jan. 30: The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Wednesday, Jan. 31: The Case for the Eagles: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Thursday, Feb. 1: Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl LII: The Final Pick and Projected Stats

Saturday, Feb. 3: Super Bowl LII Video Preview and iMovie Trailer

Sunday, Feb. 4: Watch the big game and stay tuned for my Recap!

How They Got There

Patriots

 

The Pats won in comeback fashion again, this time against the Jacksonville Jaguars, 24-20.  Early on, Blake Bortles, Leonard Fournette, Corey Grant, and the rest of the Jaguars offense dominated, taking a 14-3 lead and challenging the Pats for their chance at making it to their 10th Super Bowl, and their 8th with Tom Brady.  The Pats were unable to stop this powerful Jags offense for most of the 1st half, although they did narrow Jacksonville’s lead with a TD before the half, making it 14-10.  The Jaguars’ powerful pass rush also got on Tom Brady’s nerves in this half.

By halftime, Pats fans were getting worried, and some (but not me) gave up hope.  But the 2nd half brought a turn-around for the Patriots.  In the 3rd quarter, we began to see a better defensive performance by New England, as they held Jacksonville to just a measly 3 points in that quarter.  Lawrence Guy was able to sack Bortles as he led the Pats defense to begin to get pressure on him.  The Jags scored another field goal to begin the 4th and led 20-10.

But better defense set the Pats offense up to come back in the 4th quarter.  Despite TE Rob Gronkowski being ruled out with a concussion, the Pats came back, led by Brady, Danny Amendola (who scored both 4th quarter TDs) and Brandin Cooks.  The Pats came out of nowhere after being down by 10, scoring 14 unanswered points to win the game and advance to the Super Bowl.  But how will they fare against the Eagles, who obliterated the Vikings?

Eagles

 

The Vikings got off to a fast start as Case Keenum connected with TE Kyle Rudolph for a touchdown.  But after that, Nick Foles broke out, leading the Eagles offense to blow away an otherwise unstoppable Vikings defense.  He somehow tossed 3 TDs and 352 yards against the typically dominant Vikings D.  I also don’t know how this defense gave up 38 points.

Not only did Foles do well, but his top four receivers (Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor) all had over 50 yards receiving, combining for 306 of Philly’s receiving yards and all 3 receiving TDs.  The combination of end zone back LeGarrette Blount and lead running back Jay Ajayi also had a big game compared to recent performances.

After that win, the Eagles truly do deserve to fight for that Lombardi Trophy in Minneapolis, although it would have been cool to see Minnesota win it at home, or be stopped by the Patriots dynasty.  But will the Eagles put up the same numbers against New England, who has far more experience in the Super Bowl?  Many of New England’s players don’t even know what it is like not making the AFC Championship game.

A First Look at the Big Game

With TE Rob Gronkowski on the practice field as of Saturday the 27th, it’s a good sign that Gronk will be able to clear the concussion protocol and play by Sunday’s big game. Gronk’s status will help determine New England’s offensive schemes against an Eagles defense that can be tricky at times.

Either way, especially with T Marcus Cannon injured, DT Fletcher Cox and the Eagles’ defensive line could pressure QB Tom Brady and hit him a few times. But I do think Brady should be able to find his receivers against the younger, but still powerful Eagles secondary. With or without him, Gronk will have to get past Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins among others as they will likely keep the star tight end double covered.

Brady will have to mix it up a little, not only passing to Gronk, and dependable passing backs James White and Rex Burkhead, but also to his wide receivers who helped him win with Gronk and Burkhead out late into last week’s game. Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, and/or Chris Hogan could have a big game here. But will we see the Eagles look like their inconsistent selves again, or will we see QB Nick Foles and the Eagles offense pick up where they left off?

If they can, they will significantly challenge the Patriots, whose pass rush has struggled to pressure the QB at times this season.  However, it has gotten better since LB James Harrison joined the Patriots.  Not only has he himself made an impact, but he’s also made an impact on other players’ performances, serving as a veteran influence.  The Pats sacked Jags QB Blake Bortles twice last week.  One was by Harrison, and the other by DT Lawrence Guy.  However, the Eagles give Foles better protection than Bortles gets with their strong offensive line.

This also helps running backs, who the Pats have struggled even more against.  In their Week 7 win against Atlanta, their big flaw was giving up big plays to Devonta Freeman.  It cost them in Week 1 against Kareem Hunt.  Can RB Jay Ajayi be next?  Will end zone threat Blount Force Trauma get revenge on his former team?  Or will it be younger RBs like Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood who thrive?

The good news is, despite their front seven woes, they have maintained a strong secondary all season long, and don’t be surprised if they annoy Foles’ receivers and pick Foles off a couple times. I do think Foles will continue to thrive though, finding his receivers for most of the game, but making brutal mistakes against this strong secondary that cause the Eagles offense to trail a little behind the “Brady Bunch.”

Who will win Super Bowl LII?  What is the game plan for each team?  What Super Bowl and season-long stats will burden, encourage and/or influence each team?  Find out this week as I release more articles each day.

NFL Divisional Round Picks: Jags Shock Pittsburgh, Vikes Win in Shootout

Welcome to my Divisional Round Picks.  In the Wild Card Round, I went 3-1.  Who will come out on top this week in order to fight for Super Bowl qualification next week?  Read below and comment with your thoughts.

(6) Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles (1)

Saturday: 4:35 PM EST on NBC

Eagles, 37, Falcons, 30

Even with QB Carson Wentz injured, I see Philly winning this one.  The Falcons offense is pretty good, but even with Nick Foles at QB, it’s hard to top the Eagles offense.  The Falcons defensive front could get on Foles’ nerves, but Foles and the Philly offense will overcome it.  However, Foles has not been great under pressure, unlike Wentz.  But the tough Eagles defense will have Falcons QB Matt Ryan under a lot of pressure himself, and he will struggle under pressure, failing to repeat last year’s deep playoff run.

(5) Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots (1)

Saturday: 8:15 PM EST on CBS

Patriots, 31, Titans, 23

QB Tom Brady will lead the Pats to victory here with the help of TE Rob Gronkowski and receivers Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola, who will dominate against the young Titans secondary.  Gronk will seem unbeatable to this young but strong Tennessee defense.  In his first game against the Pats since his rookie year, QB Marcus Mariota will also have a tough time, especially against the strong Pats secondary.  He will toss just 1 TD.

However, RB Derrick Henry will get on New England’s nerves in his first game against them.  This speedy running back is just too much for the Pats front seven, even with veteran LB James Harrison.  I do see New England coming out on top in the end after offensive dominance and excellent coverage of Titans QB Marcus Mariota.

(3) Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers (2)

Sunday: 1:05 PM EST on CBS

Jaguars, 27, Steelers, 23

In my opinion, Jacksonville will be the only road team that wins this week.  Although QB Blake Bortles might have a difficult time against the Steelers D, the Jaguars secondary was able to pick off QB Ben Roethlisberger 5 times last time these two franchises played. Plus, between his calf and his illness, WR Antonio Brown will not be 100% for this game whether he plays or not.

Big Ben will experience deja vu against a dominant Jags defense without his favorite target.  The Jags young group of receivers will also thrive as long as Bortles can get the ball to them, which I think will happen for at least parts of the game.  Jags win in a close thriller.

(4) New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings (2)

Sunday: 4:40 PM EST on FOX

Vikings, 37, Saints, 33

In a high scoring rematch of the 2017 season’s first Monday Night game, the Vikes will come out on top, led by rising QB Case Keenum and young receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.  WR Brandon Coleman is out for the Saints as well as G Andrus Peat, causing the Saints offense to be slightly less powerful than usual.  Only slightly though.  The Saints defense will still be great as well, but the Vikings dominant receivers will intimidate the young secondary and the Saints will allow Keenum to toss multiple TDs as Minnesota wins.

 

That’s all for my picks this week.  Stay tuned for a more in-depth Patriots-Titans preview coming soon.

NFL Playoffs: Bracket and Wild Card Weekend Picks

Welcome to my NFL playoff predictions and Wild Card picks. I finished the regular season with a 150-108 record. Below are my wild card weekend picks. How will I do this week? Keep reading and comment with your thoughts.

Before we begin, I’m going to reveal my playoff bracket:

I have the Patriots topping the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII. A lot of people have said the Vikings will make the Super Bowl in their home stadium. If they did that, they would be practically invincible. But I think RB Todd Gurley will lead the Rams past them in Minnesota, and the Rams will fall short in Philly, allowing Philly to advance to Super Bowl LII, losing to New England.

Now here are my picks for this week:

(5) Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs (4)

Saturday: 4:35 PM EST on ESPN

Titans, 30, Chiefs, 27

Titans QB Marcus Mariota and his group of versatile receivers will be dominant against the Chiefs secondary, who is still without S Eric Berry. But the Chiefs will make it close. They will shut down Titans running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, and they will be competitive offensively. WR Tyreek Hill will outsmart the young Titans secondary, as well as star TE Travis Kelce. But in the end, Mariota will lead the Titans to victory, as the Chiefs fall just short.

(6) Atlanta Falcons @ Los Angeles Rams (3)

Saturday: 8:15 PM EST on NBC

Rams, 31, Falcons, 23

Atlanta will fall short in LA. RB Todd Gurley will overtire the Falcons front seven in a dominant game. QB Jared Goff will also do well, tossing a trio of touchdowns. The Rams defense will also help, shutting down Atlanta’s running back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. WR Julio Jones will have a good game, but it will not be enough in Los Angeles.

(6) Buffalo Bills @ Jacksonville Jaguars (3)

Sunday: 1:05 PM EST on CBS

Jaguars, 31, Bills, 26

The Jaguars defense will dominate here, slowing down a strong group of Bills receivers with their young, elite secondary. They will also slow down star running back LeSean “Shady” McCoy. The Jaguars will also contribute offensively although QB Blake Bortles will be under a lot of pressure. RB Leonard Fournette will do well against the Bills defensive front though, and Jacksonville’s young receivers will outdo the Bills stingy secondary.

(5) Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints (4)

Sunday: 4:40 PM EST on FOX

Saints, 30, Panthers, 19

QB Drew Brees and his versatile receivers will lead the Saints to victory here. They will dominate against the young, inexperienced Carolina secondary although the tough Panthers front seven will shut down the Saints RB duo. But the New Orleans defense will also do well, overwhelming QB Cam Newton, shutting down the strong Carolina run game, and holding Carolina to just one TD. The Saints defense has significantly improved since last season. They support the dominant offense, and that will bring New Orleans a successful playoff run as they win here at home.

That’s all for my playoff Predictions and wild card picks. Check back next week for my updated divisional round picks. In addition, stay tuned for my predictions on where the top free agents and players on the trade block will land. I will also be releasing more recaps on the Patriots and my middle school’s basketball teams, so check back soon.

NFL Week 13 Picks: Mediocre Teams Make For Great Matchups

Welcome to my NFL Week 13 Picks.  I went 12-4 last week, placing my overall record at 100-76.  How will I do in this week’s slate of games?  Read below and comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

QB Marcus Mariota will lead the Titans offense to a huge game and a victory.  TE Delanie Walker and WR Corey Davis among others will help Mariota as the Titans offense takes advantage of the Texans weakening secondary.  With the help of the offensive line, the Titans RB duo will also help out the offense against the depleted Texans front seven.  For the Texans, QB Tom Savage will struggle to generate offense and score TDs, especially without WR Will Fuller.  Titans win after Houston’s struggles.

Upset of the Week

The Falcons depleted defense will fail to shut down the Vikings strong group of receivers.  Vikings receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs will help lead the Vikings offense to dominance and help lead the Vikings to victory.   For the Falcons offense, QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones will lead the Atlanta offense to a strong game, but it won’t be enough against the relentless Vikings.

TNF

After a rough week last week, QB Dak Prescott will lead the Cowboys offense to a big game, even without RB Ezekiel Elliott.  Both defenses will struggle after losing key players.  The Redskins lost S DeAngelo Hall, and the Cowboys lost LB Sean Lee.  With Lee out, the Redskins will also thrive offensively in this game.  QB Kirk Cousins will lead them to dominance and keep this close.  But the Cowboys will outscore them in an offensive shootout.

Sunday’s Games

The Bills will struggle to establish a passing game here due to their QB problems, and the fact that WR Kelvin Benjamin is out.  The Pats secondary will be able to shut down the receivers that do play, as the Pats secondary has been dominant lately.  For the Patriots offense, a balanced attack will lead them to thrive against a Bills defense that has begun to struggle after a strong start to the season.  Pats win as the Bills can’t find their rhythm.

QB Jay Cutler will look a bit better in his return, but he will still struggle against the dominant Broncos defense.  The Dolphins defense will also do well though, shutting down the Broncos run game.  But despite a hole at QB, the Broncos will still be able to generate an offensive rhythm.  However, the Dolphins will win after a defensive rebound led by defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake, as well as safety Reshad Jones.

The Chiefs offense hasn’t been able to lead Kansas City to victory lately, but in this game, I think the defense will.  The Chiefs D will shut down the pesky Jets offense with the addition of CB Darrelle Revis against his former team.  The Jets defense will fail to shut down deep threat Tyreek Hill and star TE Travis Kelce.  After the Jets D struggles and the Chiefs D dominates, the Chiefs will win on the road.

QB Matthew Stafford will lead the versatile Lions receivers to thrive against a banged-up Ravens secondary.  But the Ravens will fight back as their younger players like RB Alex Collins and WR Breshad Perriman help lead their offense to dominate.  In the end, the Ravens will win in a close game that results in one of the most underrated matchups of the season.

The Jaguars secondary will be dominant against the Colts receivers, and the Jags defensive front will look unstoppable as they shut down the Colts running backs.  Meanwhile, the Colts defense will struggle to shut down the Jags young receivers and standout RB Leonard Fournette.  The Jags will win after the young offense comes through.

QB Jameis Winston will return to rejuvenate the Bucs offense against a struggling Packers team.  The Packers will continue to struggle offensively as well, failing to produce much offense against the underrated Buccaneers defense.  Tampa will win after defensive dominance and an offensive bounce back.

This game won’t be too exciting, but the Bears RB duo will help bring some excitement and lead Chicago to victory.  The 49ers’ QB problems will cause them to struggle, even against the Bears.  The Niners lack depth at receiver, especially without WR Pierre Garcon.  The Bears will win,  but the game will bring some of the sloppiest defense of the season from both teams.

WR Josh Gordon will help lead the Browns offense to a slightly better game in his return, but it won’t nearly be enough against the Chargers’ electric offense.  Besides, this is Gordon’s first game since 2014, so there’s a chance he gets a rude awakening.  LA’s offense will just be too strong for the Browns, and Philip Rivers will toss for 400 yards and 5+ TD against the weak Browns defense.  The Chargers will win despite the Browns’ efforts to push closer to victory.  It will be a more exciting game than you might expect.

The Giants defense will slow down the Raiders’ versatile receivers, especially with WR Amari Cooper out.  But the Giants will fail to produce offensively with Geno Smith at QB, and Smith will be knocked around a lot by the Raiders strong defensive front.  The Raiders will win after Smith fails another New York team.

The Saints offense won’t be in full swing against the tough Panthers front seven, but they will still have a huge game, even without TE Coby Fleener.  The Panthers will struggle to match the Saints’ success without TE Greg Olsen (foot injury) and WR Kelvin Benjamin (mid-season trade).  New Orleans will win after their defense slows down the depleted Carolina offense, and the Saints offense puts up another strong game.

The Rams defense will shut down the Cardinals offense that will be without WR John Brown in this game and without RB David Johnson and QB Carson Palmer for the rest of the season.  The Rams offense won’t look like themselves against the stingy Arizona secondary, but they will still manage to pull away with a victory against a troubled Arizona offense.

QB Carson Wentz will lead the Eagles to victory in a Sunday Night offensive shootout.  Seahawks QB Russell Wilson will also look good during primetime and he will challenge Philly.  But the Eagles will be dominant as they take advantage of the depleted Seahawks secondary and win the game.  Seattle’s secondary will be without CB Richard Sherman and S Kam Chancellor in this primetime clash.

The Bengals offense will struggle in the heat of primetime, especially against Pittsburgh’s difficult front seven.  On the other hand, Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense will look good against their divisional rivals on Monday Night.  Big Ben will lead a great group of Steelers receivers to dominate, and the Steelers will win again.  The return of WR JuJu Smith-Schuster will help them.

That’s all for my Week 13 Picks.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.